Monday, March 17, 2008

American Idols: Do We Love Them More Than Jesus?

I regularly watch “American Idol” with my family and discuss with my 16-year-daughter after the show who we think will be eliminated from the competition next. She text-voted about 60 times last Tuesday night for David Archeleta, so I think that cute kid from Utah is safe for now!

This show, for the most part is pretty wholesome family entertainment. But there are some “American Idols” that Jesus warned us about as Christ-followers some 2000 years ago. They are not evil or wrong in and of themselves, but they do become dangerous to our souls when we exalt them above our love and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; Anyone who loves His son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

I am looking at the passage from a father’s viewpoint. Jesus identifies three things that we men (and women) naturally choose to derive our sense of significance from: our lineage (parents), our legacy (children) and our very life. He doesn’t say it is wrong to love our parents, children or our own life, but He challenges us to not place our natural love for our lineage, legacy and life above our love for Him.


“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me,..”

We may think that as 21st Century American men we don’t struggle with this as much as, say our 1st Century Hebrew counterparts, but we do. I admit that when I was younger I found I based my identity in being my father’s son. For me it was a “love-hate” thing. I didn’t really want to be identified only in this way as I struggled to emerge from his shadow with my own identity, but I I did find the connection did work for me. My dad was an impressive guy with many accomplishments that earned him admiration from others and I was more than happy to let some of that occasionally spill over onto me.

I really wasn’t aware that I was doing this until I moved away from my parents geographically and through changing circumstances saw the importance of those things in relationship to me begin to fade. I have had to, over the years, learn to be grateful for my dad and increasingly make the relationship with my heavenly Father my only true “claim to fame.”

In my work with men, I know that the kind of parents a guy has can make a huge impact upon what kind of husband and father he becomes. If he does not choose to put his love for Jesus and desire to follow His ways above what he has received from dad and mom then he is doomed to repeat the very things he may have had to suffer through in his family while growing up.


“..Anyone who loves His son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,..”

The putting of the love of our children as an idol above our love for the Lord is a hard one to recognize as well. It plays out in different ways in us as dads as we move through the fathering seasons. When we are young we are tempted to neglect needed discipline because we want to be our child’s “buddy” or because we are too tired or distracted to follow through.

When they get a little older it could be illegitimately living out our childhood dreams through our children’s accomplishments. And if they struggle and suffer consequences for foolish choices we can doubt the Father’s love and care for them and as well as for us.

Just as with that first idol, we often don’t become aware that we have worshiped our children above Christ until we are confronted with the realization through painful circumstances we inevitably must walk through with them.


“…and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who lost his life for My sake will find it.”

The third American idol that Jesus warns us about has nothing to do with deriving our sense of signficance or identity from someone else, our parents or our children, but it is in simply finding it in ourselves, apart from Christ. It is that simple. This is the idol of seeking our fulfillment, glory or success in ourselves. This is so natural, so “normal” it doesn’t seem fair to even consider this an idol. In fact it seems downright “un-American!”

But there isn't another role quite like that of being a father that confronts a man so squarely with this challenge. Every bleary-eyed dad, who has persevered through the early months of his child’s life with decreased sleep and romance with his wife, understands that fathering means sacrifice. Every single father who struggles to remain engaged with his children through the pain of separation and divorce understands that this hard road means personal sacrifice. Every working dad who says “no” or “wait” to a career opportunity for his children’s sake understands that this is what fathers are sometimes called to do.

But Jesus doesn’t leave us there with the warning about the three idols. He gives a promise that what He provides is infinitely better than what may be lost by dethroning the idols.

“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

For us fathers who follow Christ He promises that the gain will more than make up for whatever losses we incur. What is that gain? It is not the gain of a guaranteed successful marriage or that our children will fulfill every expectation or dream we may have had for them. It is not even the promise that our home will be sorrow-free. In fact He has pretty much guaranteed that while we are in this life here that this will be "part of the deal." (John 16:33)

But the gain is a LIFE that is found in HIM. When we fathers willingly choose to embrace the painful circumstances He allows into our lives, we will find His sufficiency. And then, without really looking for it, we will find the persons our Creator-Savior destined for each of us to become, both for now and forevermore!


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Here in the 21st century we are "too sophisticated to have idols" so we get trapped by all kinds of things just like Jamie said.

My latest struggles relate to my fathering. I have made the process an idol. Guaranteed results if I just do all the right stuff. When it doesn't produce the kid's I want I am heartbroken and wonder if God loves me.

That is idolatry just like Jamie says. I am called to be the best I can be but the results are not guaranteed in this life because we can’t really know what the results are. From our limited perspective we can't see the big picture God is creating. We forget that our 20+ years are as nothing to the creator of the universe. He is still shaping us, using what ever he needs to to make us more like Jesus. That includes our parents, our children, and our lives.

We need to stay the course, keep our eyes on Jesus, and leave the results to Him.

Anonymous said...

I would like to beleive the more I invest in my family the smoother the trail that winds from being young parents to empty nesters. I find this trail is full of potholes and not smooth at all. The more I hold to Jesus Christ and his spoken words and the more I call out to Him and look to Him for my peace, patients, kindness and overall sanity the less those potholes in life through me into the ditch. Thanks for the insights Jamie.

Anonymous said...

Well said and straight to the heart of the matter. Specifically the comments about legacy and the unknown and untimely sacrifices we must make as fathers. We never know when Jesus will test our commitment to follow him. What are our priorities and how are the choices we make impacting our wife and children?
Thanks Jamie for this tough message.
Kent Abendroth